Contrary to what many of us believe, being anxious actually undermines, rather than promotes, chances of success—particularly in creative or intellectual tasks. There is an important reason for this. When we feel stressed, a part of our brain’s capacity is occupied by the stress. The more stressed we feel, the more we are likely to be distracted by questions like, “Will I be able to complete this task on time?” and, “Will the output turn out to be as good as I would like it to be?”
Thus, we aren’t able to devote our brain’s full capacity to the task at hand when we feel stressed.
By contrast, when we feel relaxed or happy, a larger share of our brain’s capacity is available for the task at hand.
Being happy versus anxious promotes success in at least two other ways. First, you are likely to be able to work longer and harder when you feel happy—should the situation demand it. For example, happier employees take fewer sick days off. Second, you are likely to be a better team player when you are happy than when you are not. So, you are a better co-worker when you feel positive than when you don’t.
Organizations appear to recognize these benefits of happiness, which is why happier employees earn higher wages than do their less happy counterparts.